How are Seattle's fine-dining restaurants faring during these tough economic times?
Not too shabby, at least for Crush on Madison. Chef-owner Jason Wilson says business is actually better now than it was this time last year, thanks in part to more repeat business.
"Now, we see people three times a month and my feedback from them is, 'Look. I just want to go to a place that I can trust because maybe I don't have as much money or I'm a little apprehensive about what's going on.' You know, we've had many a pink slip party," says Jason, who never intended for Crush to be a fine-dining restaurant when it opened four years ago.
"You go into a place like this and the way in which the decor is put together people say, 'Oh! This is fine-dining.' But come on. You're sitting and there's no linens on the tables and there's plastic chairs. We were looking to have this be a Modern American restaurant."
What else has changed in four years? For starters, he's hired someone to specifically direct the service and wine aspects of Crush.
"Taking a much more serious approach to what we do, but still having it light and still keeping the price point of the place where, you know, we're competitive with everyone else in town and it makes sense."
In fact, Jason says Crush is comparable to some chain restaurants. "I actually did a staff meeting once and said, 'Okay. Which is more expensive? Our menu or Outback Steakhouse?" And side-by-side it all equated."
Jason and his staff rely on the seasons for menu inspiration.
"We're bringing on some Rhode Island black bass. They're a two-pound fish so they'd would be a nice little fillet. We're using Oregon black truffles. We do a lobster carbonara with house made black pepper fettuccine with Sichuan peppercorn."
Whether you're celebrating - or just having a casual dinner at the bar, it's hard not to get caught up in the Crush experience.
"We're really looking to be that restaurant in Seattle where people say, 'When I'm in Seattle I want to dine here.'"
Places chef Wilson likes to Go Eat!: Saito's, Nashino, Pho Cyclo, Quinn's.
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